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Dinner Speaker: Professor Hugh Possingham

About Hugh

Professor Hugh Possingham is currently a Professor of Mathematics and Conservation Science at The University of Queensland, Chief Scientist at Accounting for Nature, Lead Councillor at Biodiversity Council and Vice President of BirdLife Australia, to go with an impressive resume of board positions and community roles. 

Notably, Hugh was Queensland Chief Scientist in the Department of Environment and Science from 2020-2022 and was also the co-creator of Marxan conservation solutions software. 

Hugh will be speaking at the Conference Dinner, which starts at 7pm on Tuesday 15th October, at the Cobb+Co Museum. His talk will be titled Making smart plant conservation decisions”.

Plenary Speakers

Living on the Edge

Dr James Clugston

Research Fellow, Cycad Genomics and Conservation – Western Sydney University

About James

Dr James Clugston is a conservation biologist with broad research interest in the molecular diversity and evolution of gymnosperms and angiosperms, with a focus towards species conservation of cycads (Cycadales). James is passionate about cycads due to their interesting biology and unique adaptations that have allowed them to survive for millions of years. The focus of his recent research is the development of new molecular techniques to better understand cycad genetic diversity and apply this to their conservation worldwide. In his work he uses a broad range of molecular techniques and approaches in conservation genomics, systematics, phylogenetics, and plant evolution. James is also the co-chair for the Global Conservation Consortium for Cycads, Australia and he is an active member of the IUCN SSC Cycad Specialist Group. James has recently returned from four very successful field trips (NSW, Qld, Thailand, South Africa) sampling cycads for genetic analysis and will share conservation stories from those places.

Abstract - A Path Forward for Cycad Conservation in Australia

Cycads are amongst the most threatened organisms globally, with continuing declines in populations driven by natural and human activates. Australia represents a biodiversity hotspot for cycads representing 22% of the world’s cycad diversity, and although populations were once considered healthy and stable, there evidence of decline of cycad populations here and globally. As such initiatives that bring together cycad specialists and conservation scientists are being used to gather knowledge and create action to halt declines. Among these, the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) and Cycad Specialist Group driven Global Conservation Consortium for Cycads (GCCC) has been launched worldwide and in Australia. The Australian effort is using a regional steering committee and species stewards to support cycad conservation. Here, I share the primary objectives for the GCCC in Australia: guiding the development of ex-situ assurance colonies for conservation significant species, updating the IUCN Red List and developing networks of species stewards though citizen science programs. Collaborative research is also being used to forge a new understanding of the genetic diversity of cycads in Australia using genomic approaches. A new universal genetic marker set is planned that can be applied across all extant cycad lineages (Cycadaceae and Zamiaceae). I will outline how our new marker set can address conservation related questions and how it can be used to differentiate interspecific and intraspecific level differences in populations to understand species boundaries, evolutionary relationships, detect hybridisation and create forensic applications for tackling illegal trade in cycads.

Dr Carol Booth

Stanthorpe Rare Wildflower Consortium

Navigating Natural Disasters

Dr Darren Crayn

Australian Tropical Herbarium

Fighting Feral Pathogens

Dr Geoff Pegg

Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

About Geoff

Dr Geoff Pegg is a Senior Principal Forest Pathologist and Team Leader Forest Production and Protection with the Department of Agriculture & Fisheries, Queensland. Prior to this, Dr Pegg worked as a Biosecurity officer with Australian Quarantine. Dr Pegg has more than 24 years’ experience as a forest pathologist working on a range of diseases impacting commercial forest species. For the last 14 years, following the arrival of Austropuccinia psidii (Myrtle rust), Dr Pegg has focussed his research towards the environmental space, studying the impacts of Myrtle rust on native Myrtaceae and associated ecosystems. Dr Pegg has been working in partnership with Indigenous groups to develop and deliver projects to address exotic pests that threaten the cultural and environmental biodiversity values unique to Australia. This includes Myrtle rust and the more recent decline of Bunya pines in the Bunya Mountains National Park.

Abstract - Myrtle rust in Queensland: current and future challenges in managing the impacts

Myrtle rust is a disease caused by the exotic rust fungus Austropuccinia psidii. Since arriving in Australia in 2010, Myrtle rust has become established in some of Queensland’s most valuable ecosystems. Impact on different species has been recorded in coastal heath, littoral, subtropical and tropical rainforest, wet and dry sclerophyll, and sand island ecosystems, including the World Heritage areas of Gondwana Rainforests (Springbrook, Mt Barney, Lamington NP), K’gari (Fraser Island) and the Wet Tropics in northern Australia. Indirect and direct impacts on flowering and fruit production have been recorded. While information on impact has been documented for a range of Myrtaceae species, the consequences of the loss of these species from a broader ecological perspective is not well understood. The impacts of Myrtle rust on Indigenous Communities are broader than ecological and industry values. Country, Culture and Community are all connected, they are not separate. The Myrtaceae family are valued greatly as many species are edible, medicinal and/or cultural resources.

Northern Connections

Paul Donatiu

Queensland Threatened Plant Network

About Paul

Paul Donatiu manages the Queensland Threatened Plant Network. Paul has a study background in architecture, psychology and environmental management, and has practised community development and community education. He has worked for WWF, Greening Australia, Queensland National Parks Association, Griffith University and Healthy Land and Water. Apart from species recovery, Paul’s fields of interest include ecological restoration, fire ecology, landscape ecology, and the management and preservation of cultural landscapes. Paul has also completed a Churchill Fellowship that examined how five national agencies in Europe, USA and South Africa were dealing with climate impacts on their protected areas. In his spare time, Paul can be found wandering the bush adding to his personal visual herbarium, gardening, reading or wrangling his two daughters (not necessarily in that order!).

Abstract - Saving Queensland's Rarest Plant Species

Queensland is the most biodiverse State in Australia with over 14,000 species of native plants/allied species and 1424 regional ecosystems. More than one-third of Queensland’s flora are endemic including towering rainforest trees and cryptic desert daisies. Over 1000 plants are listed as threatened in the State, and many plant species have a cultural significance that resonates across generations of Traditional Owners. 17 plants species are listed as extinct. In direct response to this situation a new group – the Queensland Threatened Plant Network – has been created to inspire and support organisations and individuals committed to the conservation and recovery of Queensland’s threatened plants and ecological communities. 

This presentation will cover:

1. The state of, and threats to, Queensland’s rarest plant species.

2. How the Network is developing a collective, informed, and collaborative approach to threatened plant conservation in Queensland by coordinating existing and new on-ground effort, education, training, and information exchange.

3. How and why community-based environmental groups are integral to forming the mainstay of recovery effort, developing and implementing recovery action plans.

4. How the Network is conducting detailed flora surveys to build information on data deficient species and unearth new threatened species populations.

5. And how this work is establishing QTPN as a leader in the conservation of threatened flora and providing a vital platform to guide on-ground recovery effort amongst those communities seeking to conserve and protect our rarest plant species.

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